resting and returning

resting and returning

Hello friends.

I am full of joy and expectation to be writing again in this space.

I was unsure about returning this summer. As I began my break, it was apparent, I was more exhausted than envisioned. I felt empty of words and couldn’t see a clear path or direction before me. It is a huge disservice to attempt to manufacture content, a pause was wise and beneficial. 

Resting is vitally essential for all of us.  Somehow I had succumbed to a belief that the collective shut down of life was restful. I had slowed down but the constant changing tides of any given day took a toll.  I pushed back many of my emotions related to the pandemic and racial tensions to the background and kept going. 

I say to you today, don’t mistake this time of being less busy with outside of the home pursuits as any less taxing. We all need time to reflect, grieve, process, and reassess. Even usual summertime activities are different than in the past. We have lost our care-free existence and spontaneity and I am guessing even if this wasn’t a normal bent, it would be welcomed right now. 

My time away from this blog didn’t feel different during the first two weeks. Life continued with more in-person gatherings with my children but even being in the company of my nearest and dearest still brings an element of feeling risky and foreign. We spent a few days in two cabins along the Columbia Gorge, a precious family memory. We felt safe and secluded and did not take for granted the blessing of those days. We had our masks when we did venture into any area with people which was twice on a waterfall hike and to pick up take-out one evening.

I woke up early each morning to spend time with God and to simply watch the water from the deck. It wasn’t easy to rouse my sleepy self but the steadiness of keeping rhythms, no matter what, has deepened in me. It was a gift to be away from home and endeavoring to not squander a moment. However, not a lot of words were written except for some scribbles in my journal.

Then my guys went camping and this was the first time I had more than an hour in our home alone since March. I adore my people but I crave silence and solitude and they know it. The anticipation of words and fear of none appearing were my companions. I have learned and this time was no exception, the words come but not on command. It takes time to surrender to silence and slow the pleading pulse of anticipation. 

Ever land on the most brilliant idea when soaped up in the shower without a pen at hand? Being silent allowed me to hear again and mostly when I wasn’t thinking about writing. 

Since March, I have asked God to entrust me with words like He gave manna to the Israelites in the wilderness. I am learning to trust He will give me just enough words for each week. Although I now have a page full of bullet points, I know all the thoughts could turn into a solitary post. It’s disappointing as I long to be “ahead” but it’s truly the way of the Master to dispense what I need. I can view this as crumbs when in reality it is a basketful of bread, broken with plenty to share.

We live in an upside-down world.  It’s difficult to behold beauty but also stare straight into the realities of despair and heartbreak. My nasturtiums have been growing along our fence with gusto with flowers erupting in colors beyond the typical yellows and oranges. But this week, I turned over a few leaves, only to find tightly affixed black dotted clusters of bugs. I know these pesky bugs from past seasons and can never rid my plants of them before they choke out life. I have two options. I can ignore the bugs pretending they don’t exist until they spread to every plant, creating mass casualties. Or I can gently remove the infected leaves and in some cases plants, protecting the healthy ones.

I am fighting for joy in the midst of despair and wading through misinformation. I am choosing to not ignore the brutal parts of life and doing what I can do when life feels out of control. Sometimes it is simply to take a deep breath, whisper a prayer, and unclench my jaw and hands. I look to the shades of my flowers knowing there are forces that can and at times want to assault my joy and stability. I will enjoy them at the moment without fear and obsessing about what might be on the underside.

I am back to living with my people again and as Oregon has declared, this will be the way for quite a while. This wasn’t a surprise but being refreshed helped me to surrender to this sustained reality.  I needed time alone however it is a mistake to believe I can’t find solitude when my home is inhabited by others. I just need to be a bit more creative.

My challenge to you is to look for patches of solitude this week. Here are some ideas to help fuel your creativity.

  • Get up early and watch the sunrise.
  • Stay up late and stargaze.
  • Watch less news.
  • Hold your phone less.
  • Watch a butterfly or a bee. 
  • Close your eyes. If you fall asleep, you needed a deeper rest.
  • It bears repeating, take a nap.
  • Pick one hour each day or even 15 minutes to simply do nothing. Let your mind wander. Allow the silence to offer a surprise landing of thoughts or ideas revealed.
  • Walk around your yard or garden. Don’t water, prune, pull a weed, or even harvest. Simply marvel at creation and hear the sound of your footsteps, the birds of the air, and the sound of your breath enlarging and also softening.
  • Seek ladybugs. Number the dragonflies.
  • Sit and watch the moon rise. In fact, make it a point to see every phase of the moon this month.
  • Blow bubbles and watch each one pop. Muse about how our days are like bubbles, fleeting, yet beautiful and full of wonder. Marvel how at any age, bubbles never cease to bring a smile and cause us to look up.
  • Sit in your favorite chair inside or outside with a frosty beverage and just be wonderful you.

Fill each day with the essentials and plenty of margins to be still and quiet. 

*****

May each day provide moments of quiet.

May we access our need for silence and solitude.

May we release the uncontrollable and embrace wonder.

May we fight for joy especially on days where it feels like we are in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 

May we know and believe, whatever the cluster of pesky bugs in our lives, it will not dismantle or steal our joy.

May we be like bubbles to one another.

 

slowing down

slowing down

Several years ago, when Caleb was in seventh grade, I had carpool duty two afternoons each week. I usually arrived early enough to relax post-work by reading, listening to music, or a podcast. One afternoon, as the group loaded their belongings into the cargo part of the car, I hadn’t turned off my music selection which was my habit. 

I started to switch the music off when in unison, everyone except Caleb(who is his mother’s frequent passenger), yelled “Hamilton! Turn it up!” I obliged and drove the next 30 minutes to a unique rendition of the musical Hamilton which repeated for several weeks until one carpool member urged for a new music selection. 

This will always be an indelible memory of how art can bridge the seemingly wide chasm between people. 

My original five watched the movie version of Hamilton at exactly midnight the moment it premiered. This might seem like overkill but we are trying to make a celebration out of anything these days, especially when we can do it in our own home.   What a treat to see the music we have loved and couldn’t get out of our heads jump to life before our eyes. 

Even my next sentence echoes Eliza’s words to Alexander (“Take a break.”) but I am going to heed them better than he did.

I am taking a break from writing on the blog for at least the rest of July. Normally, I wouldn’t make any fuss about it but so many of you dear friends wondered where Monday’s post was last week. Thanks for missing the post. 

I’ve written a lot of words since the first Monday in January. I love a good streak and I have only missed two Mondays in the past seven months. But alas, I am not meant to be a machine. We all need to remember this for ourselves and sanity.

January was the month I decided to return to writing regularly on this blog and gather words about what I was learning about slow living. “Slow” was the word I picked at the end of August as my word for my birthday year. 

I realized last Monday, my birthday was only 50 days away. What a lot of living over the course of this year and what a lot of slowing down in the second quarter of 2020.  It’s time for me to consider a new word for my upcoming birthday and continue to hold tightly to the goodness of the word “slow”. I hope to spend time journaling and fleshing out new thoughts. There is an avalanche of words out in the world right this moment, I want my words to be ones of hope, encouragement, and life-giving. 

It’s summertime. Time for a rest, lots of iced tea, and books.

The best way to know when I have returned to posting is to be subscribed to my blog. Sign-up information is found on the sidebar, thanks for your readership.

So Jesus said to his disciples, “Come, let’s take a break and find a secluded place where you can rest awhile.” 

Mark 6: 31 (TPT)

That sounds mighty nice.

 

*****

 

May this summer bring gifts beyond measure.

May you find joy in the midst of disappointment from abandoned plans.

May you revel in offering the gift of safety to others by wearing a mask.

May God grant you health and wellness during this time of mounting statistics.

May rest and recreation hold hands with one another during this season of sunshine.

May you allow yourself to take a break.

 

rhythms

rhythms

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During the summer of 2012, I read Barbara Brown Taylor’s book An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith. I have a certain fondness for books read in the summer. A book has to be enticing to lure one away from playing in the sunshine.

I was consumed with this book because it was everything I believed but didn’t have the beautiful language to convey. This blog was started in 2006 and named A Work of Heart with the tagline, paying attention to God in our midst. I wanted to write about all the ways God shows up in everyday life. Reading this book made me feel understood and embraced. It’s my deepest hope to lay down words here which more often point to God than to me. It’s the place where I get to share about the geography of my faith.

“Or I can set a little altar in the world or in my heart. I can stop what I am doing long enough to see where I am, who I am there with, and how awesome the place is. I can flag one more gate to heaven–one more patch of ordinary earth with ladder marks on it–where the divine traffic is heavy when I notice it and even when I do not. I can see it for once, instead of walking right past it, maybe even setting a stone or saying a blessing before I move on to where I am due next.”
~An Altar in the World

We have plenty of time to take notice of our surroundings and our lives now. There are no longer the perpetual distractions and busyness of appointments, events, practices, sports, etc. In many ways, we don’t have the luxury to look away and bury our thoughts in a full schedule anymore. We have the gift of being able to reflect longer and deeper than usual if we dare. 

We don’t have to redecorate our homes to make a place of refuge, a respite from the storms which rage throughout our world. It’s as simple as lighting a candle at the beginning and the end of each day. Maybe it’s pulling out the good dishes while you eat grilled cheese sandwiches and telling jokes during dinner. You could sit on your porch with a book, making sure to greet all who walk past. Or spread a blanket on your front steps and drink a favorite beverage. Yesterday, we anchored a crate to our giant maple tree along our parking strip and filled it with bottles of bubbles for passing children, hoping to impart a tiny bit of airborne joy from our home to theirs. 

In what ways can your home become a place of refuge and rest in a weary world?

Those who have loved Barbara Brown Taylor’s writing have often borrowed a question she was asked when invited to speak.

“What do you want me to talk about?” I asked him.

“Come tell us what is saving your life now,” he answered. It was if he had swept his arm across a dusty table and brushed all the formal china to the ground. I did not have to try to say correct things that were true for everyone. I did not have to use theological language that conformed to the historical teachings of the church. All I had to do was figure out how I stayed as close to that reality as I could, and then find some way to talk about it that helped my listeners figure out those same things for themselves.”

Recently, I have been closing some posts by recounting what has helped over the past week. It is the same as describing what is saving my life. 

Daily rhythms are saving my life right now. When I look over the past month, there have been productive days and days when I felt kind of crummy inside and out. There have been days the pace of a snail and other days I couldn’t believe it was time to fix dinner. 

The consistent part of my days has been maintaining, adhering to and if I am honest, running towards my rhythms. They have been an anchor during this turbulent time. I have written these ways before but repetition is the beauty of rhythms and routines. The value multiplies over time.

At night, I write in my journal documenting the day. This helps me remember and drains my brain so I can sleep. It’s kind of like how I wished I  had written down EVERY funny or cute thing my children said instead of thinking I would NEVER forget them. This is for the same reason, I will forget. I want to remember.

After I finish writing, I bring my Bible, studies, other journals (#writer problems), planner and whatever book I want to read in the morning. It could be non-fiction, fiction or a devotional book. I make a stack in front of my chair at our dining room table. Sometimes I fill a glass of water and place it on the table as well. I love cold water but sometimes room temperature water feels better in the morning. I pray, write or recite any verse I want to memorize and usually write a card to send. 

This rhythm circles my day. My end of the day rhythm helps me sleep and prepares me for the next day. The day begins in a way that brings me peace and direction for the hours ahead.  Each has become a sturdy signpost drawing my attention away from fretting. A colorful journal to remind me of the beauty in a day when the world seems to have shifted to black and white hues. A small stack of hope to help affix to my heart and mind. 

A signpost could be reading glasses to remember to read or running shoes as a nudge towards the outdoors. It might be a water bottle to stay hydrated or a sticky note with the word BREATH in bold letters. Rhythms don’t have to be complicated or take hours. Try one thing, repeat it and see if it adds value to each day. We all have rhythms whether we are conscious of them or not, now is a wonderful time to create rhythms to strengthen you now and hopefully will last way beyond this patch of time. 

 

What’s saving your life right now?

May the gift of each day, whether filled with easy or difficult parts, be anchored by rhythms to equip you with peace and stability. May your dwelling place feel like a sanctuary of rest and hope.